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Nanotechnology Research May Offer Hope for Drug Addiction

The University of Buffalo has completed new research, suggesting that nanotechnology treatment for drug addiction may offer the answer to long-term recovery. Scientists involved in the research have developed a stable nanoparticle that delivers short RNA molecules in the brain to disable the gene that has proven to play a critical role in a variety of drug addictions.

The UB team believes that these findings may allow for a powerful pharmaceutical agent to be added to treatments to provide a more effective approach for a range of substance addictions. This new approach could also be applicable in the treatment of such ailments as Parkinson’s disease, cancer and other neurological and psychiatric disorders.

According to Stanley A. Schwartz, M.D., Ph.D., professor in the UB departments of Medicine, Pediatrics and Microbiology, director of the Division of Allergy, Immunology and Rheumatology in the UB School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences and co-author of the study, the findings suggest that nanoparticles are both safe and very efficient in delivering new drugs that can turn off abnormal genes.

The DARPP-32 is the brain protein that has long been understood as the central “trigger” for the cascade of signals the fire in the event of drug addiction. This study examines how the use of nanoparticles can be used to silence this protein that facilitates addictive behaviors. Researchers expect that by silencing these gene, the physical craving for the drug should be reduced.

Short Interfering Ribonucleic acid (siRNA) is used to silence the DARPP-32 protein. In the past, it has been difficult to safely and efficiently deliver siRNA as it is not stable by itself. UB researchers combined siRNA molecules with gold nanoparticles shaped like rods or nanorods. These nanorods were able to deliver 40 percent of the siRNA molecules across the blood-brain barrier model, significantly higher than in other experiments.

The results of this test do prove hopeful in the ongoing fight against addiction. Whether or not this process will have a greater impact on relieving drug addiction and driving long term abstinence will depend greatly upon its application and use within the treatment field and sustainable research over time.

There is still hope.

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